Book Review: American Craftsmen

American Craftsmen by Tom Doyle 

In modern America, two soldiers will fight their way through the magical legacies of Poe and Hawthorne to destroy an undying evil—if they don’t kill each other first.

US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier—a “craftsman.” After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons, formerly led by the twins Roderick and Madeline, have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.

Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.

Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.

There are two elements that I find very cool to read about. Magic and soldiers. This is exactly what the synopsis of American Craftsmen offers. I have been searching for these types of books and luckily I came across this one. Though don't let the synopsis of the story take you in too much as this is only the tip of the iceberg of the story that Tom Doyle touches. The best thing is, American Craftsmen is only Tom Doyle's debut into the fantasy fiction and is he is able to dish out such a story already, I can only imagine what he will be able to devise later on. 

American Craftsmen opens up just as such a book should, throwing you directly into the fray of it all. Getting directly acquainted with the main protagonist of the story Dale Morton, who currently serves in the US Army and has a special ability, able to conjure up magic. He and a few others are called "craftsmen" the term used for people able to use magic. Soon after a few specific terms are thrown at you, the action takes place between Dale and an evil Pursian wizard that he had to take down, this heated battle between two powerful forces does turn out to go horribly wrong, Dale gets cursed and after a short evaluation he is discharged from the Army. With the return of Dale to the Morton residence where he can pick up his life again, things just don't feel the same anymore. Coincidentally with Dale's mission, another craftsmen of the Army, Michael Endicott, known by the handle "Sword" also has a specific mission but during this mission Michael stumbles upon some weird things, not only some that he has to battle but also during a meeting with a someone... was this a misinformation or a setup? This is only just the beginning of the story of American Craftsmen, I can say that Tom, after the introduction threw the story into a rapid but from the beginning your already on the edge of your seat! After these introduction both Dale and Michael try to find out what exactly is going on. But the Mortons, have a dark history, in their past some of their craftsmen branched into an evil organization whereby they participated in some dark and gruesome rituals, this past haunts Dale daily and when you have a puritan like Michael working against you, it doesn't make Dale's job easier to proof his innocence. Dale now finds himself on the run against his former allies, and does find unlikely allies around several corners, but the what he and Michael uncover in the end... is something now one dared to think about... Tom Doyle's story is one action packer thrilling adventure. 

The story of American Craftsmen is only 320 pages long but Tom Doyle manages to create  a very rich atmosphere withing these pages. As I mentioned above Dale and Michael are a special kind of people. They are direct descendants from founding families and only in their bloodline runs the skill to be a craftsmen. I liked how in detail Tom Doyle described the lineage of the Morton family and how they went Left-Handed (to the evil side) where others of the family stayed Right-Handed (on the good side). Michael Endicott's lineage is described in less detail but does have a lot of detail of how things run in that puritan family. They are strongly christian and this collides heavily with the Morton family as the Endicott's see them as the root of all evil. From somethings you just can't escape. The part that I liked most about the depth of the history that Tom Doyle showed in his story is that is readily lifts the story to another level. To be honest I was expecting a sort of gunslinger, full out action story with magic wielding gun a-blazing scenes, well this is still partly the case (don't worry!) but with this history you get a much bigger picture of the politics involved, and readily weaves a feeling of doom and danger around certain events and makes you question the motives of several character twice before continuing. 

But it doesn't stop there! Now comes the magic aspect, it's again not the type that I was expecting, it's subtle but none the lesser powerful and cool! Also Tom Doyle doesn't let this magic aspect run rampant but directly shows that their are limitations to using the craft to much. Just to name a few examples of what Dale can do: control the elements not only using them in his advantage but also completely change the weather pattern like say I want a nice a sunny day for a BBQ he jsut has to snap his fingers. He can also commune with the dead. His grandfather and father are both dead but he can still consult them for questions. Added to this is the fact that Dale is also able to "talk" to his family house, yes seriously, and it talks back! Though the craftsmen/magic aspect is important for the story, Tom Doyle strikes a nice balance between this and the rest of the story, building the world and characters, letting nothing overtake the other. 

As for the characters of the book. The two most important ones, Dale Morton and Michael Endicott make up the forefront of the story and in particular Dale. I enjoyed reading Dale's story. In the beginning he comes over as this hardened big Army guy, a strong patriot. But when the mission goes sour and he is cursed and diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, he really changes. He doesn't become this softy, moping every moment of the day, no it seems that he starts to realize different things, things that he hadn't had the time to think about when he was serving the army full time. Perhaps its also the injustice being done to him and his family name where Dale's character gets his strength from, he is determined to get his justice. Also the relation between him and Scherie Rezvani also proves to give a lot for the development of Dale character and that of Scherie as well. Scherie is an Persian women that Dale takes with him. In the beginning their relation is something that Dale only wanted, Scherie doesn't know that Dale is a craftsmen and perhaps for the first time in his life he is being treated as a normal person. But you can keep such secrets only so long... Completely opposite the believes of Dale stands the Puritan Michael Endicott. Michael is a strong believer in the christian church and this really comes to show in the hatred that he carries towards the Morton family, they have done stuff the devil only can devise and when he hears that Dale changed he suspects a new rise of the Left-Handed Mortons, they did it once, why not a second time? However Michael just as Dale stands before an dirty political game. I liked how Tom Doyle let Michael character react to these. Michael is a loyal follower to his father who gives him orders but when questionable things happen and certain numbers just don't add up he goes on a search for himself. This also in a similar way as Dale's character gave a much better grip on Michael's one. 

The ending of the book is something that I hadn't seen coming. All along the way of the story you are confronted by many facts, Dale simultaneously on the run and trying to figure out just what the heck is going on. When he and Michael uncover the real truth it's like a bomb exploding and causes you to abandon any pretense of what you first had assumed of the direction the story would go into. This is just the ending that you want to see for such a story and plot that goes way and way back than just a few years... 

I haven't seen whether American Craftsmen will be just a stand-alone book or that Tom Doyle is planning to write a sequel or turn it into a series but I hope he does. In this debut Tom Doyle clearly shows that he knows how to write one awesome story. It's full of action on one side and on the other it's a dirty game being played by some dangerous men. Tom Doyle makes the whole concept of bring magic to the military work in full colors and balances it out nicely so that nothing overtakes the other, this also comes back to showing the world itself, building the characters and one part that I enjoyed a lot, the history of said characters and family lineages. From the first page American Craftsmen will put you directly on the edge of your seat and keep you there right until the last page. Next time when there is nothing on TV and you are looking for an thrilling non-stop adventure, be sure to have American Craftsmen ready! 


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